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Transcript: Bernie Ecclestone, President & CEO of Formula One

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Fast cars, big bucks, and outrageous comments. Those are the associations usually made with Bernie Ecclestone. But there's more to the Formula One maestro than that -- he's a real family man. And he prides himself on fair play and says his word is always good.

CNN's Todd Benjamin caught up with him at his London headquarters and started by asking him how he accounts for Formula One's huge following.

Benjamin: Formula One, watched by some 580 million people worldwide last year, what do you think the big appeal of it is?

Ecclestone: I wish I knew, it's one of these things, I suppose it's a bit of showbiz, bit of glamour, bit of excitement, people like a little bit of danger. So I suppose all those things wrapped into one is Formula One.

Benjamin: And what do you think makes a good entrepreneur, because obviously you've been very successful?

Ecclestone: I expect you need to be a little bit courageous and like most very successful people, well not that I'm very successful, but most very successful business people have been lucky, including me.

Benjamin: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to go into business?

Ecclestone: Well know what you want to do and what you're trying to achieve and be prepared to take a few risks and work hard. I think it's as simple as that.

Benjamin: Someone once described you as a friendly dictator.

Ecclestone: I don't know about the friendly part! (laughing) No, I'm a good friend and a bad enemy.

Benjamin: And what makes you a good friend?

Ecclestone: Well people in trouble would come to me and I look after people and have done for a long, long time. I see other people, whatever, not necessarily just for money, I try to be helpful if I can.

Benjamin: Biggest misunderstanding about you?

Ecclestone: I don't know and don't care.

Benjamin: And how does one become your enemy?

Ecclestone: Aggravating me first thing in the morning I suppose, something like that.

Benjamin: But you're very soft spoken?

Ecclestone: Yeah, but it's nothing, it doesn't mean you're a soft ... I don't know I try not to offend people unless it's really necessary.

Benjamin: Is business less fun than it used to be?

Ecclestone: I'm a handshake guy, unfortunately we're living with lawyers all the time now, but I like to feel I've done a deal and that's it, for better or worse I stand by it. If it's bad for me I still stick by it and I expect other people to do the same. And it used to be like that, years ago, but gradually now lawyers and accountants are taking over, so the poor CEO is sort of in their hands, they may make agreements then they have to get them cleared. That's what I think is difficult now.

Benjamin: I want to talk a little bit about your upbringing, because you left school at 16. As a young boy you were delivering papers, 2 paper routes at 5 in the morning. Your father was a skipper of a fishing trawler. Where do you think your drive came from?

Ecclestone: I really don't know. Because obviously my father wasn't in business, nor my mother, so I don't really know.

Benjamin: Do you just love the buzz of it?

Ecclestone: I don't know how it happened, how it started, but I was always trading something, when I was at school I was dealing with something. I used to, during the war when you couldn't get things, cakes and things, I used to get up in the morning and go to a baker's shop near the school with a suitcase, fill it up with cakes or whatever and buns and then sell it in the break at school. So it's always been like that with me.

Benjamin: But now the stakes of course are much higher.

Ecclestone: Yeah, same things, same buns and cakes, different figures, yes.


Bernie Ecclestone

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